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June 14 2013

Medieval Leprosy Genomes Shed Light on Disease’s History


An international team of scientists reconstructed a dozen medieval and modern leprosy genomes – suggesting a European origin for the North American leprosy strains found in armadillos and humans, and a common ancestor of all leprosy bacteria within the last 4000 years.

It is the first time scientists have reconstructed an ancient genome without a reference sequence (de novo) due to the extraordinary preservation of the medieval pathogen’s DNA. This finding indicates that ancient bacterial DNA may survive in some cases much beyond the one million year boundary suggested for vertebrate DNA.

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